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Yes this year its the big one 400 years since the gunpowder plot and once again in Lewes there will be a charged, smokey, loud and riotous atmosphere.
If you have never been before it is not for the fainthearted, neither is it truly politically correct, however, there has been a deliberate attempt in past years to make it clear, that the purpose of the celebrations is about free speech and anti-dogma, not discrimination or prejudice. Yes the pope is burned in effigy, but this is an effigy of a past pope who condoned the burning of heretics (in Lewes there is a monument to these Protestant Martyrs).
However its origins and its present day organisation is more about Carnival, Pagan Fire ceremony and dressing up in costume and marching.
This is not the council controlled firework display all nice and safe, but it is a fantastic evening, if a little riotous, always well stewarded and policed and with an excellent record of safety.
There were 5 (now 6 bonfire societies with Southover BS) They are Cliffe, South Street, Waterloo, Commercial Square and Borough. Each society conducts vast costumed and torchlit parades through the streets of Lewes in East Sussex and paying respects at the war memorial, fireworks are let of in the street at certain places, in a controlled environment, although with the rowdier societies like Cliffe a good number of rousers (the local name for a large banger) are let off on route… each then has its own bonfire and firework display in the town, with a small payment to enter the confines of the bonfire and firework area.
The displays are excellent, often well thought out and involve tableaus )often models of political or social events or figures filled with fireworks, that are first dragged through the town and then become the centre of the fireworks displays as they are ignited.
Tickets are usually on sale before the displays or you can follow the tail end of the last procession of your chosen bonfire society to find the bonfire site. I have t admit South streets site is nearest to its general marching area if you don’t want a long walk all round the outskirts of town.
Lewes is well served by trains (from Victoria en route to eastbourne and hastings) and buses, (from Uckfield and Brighton) parking is virtually impossible in or even near the town on the night (be warned). Normally it is estimated around 70,000 people come to Lewes when its on a Saturday or sunday like this year many more will be there.
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